Saturday, 23 February 2013

My latest article: Carl XIII and the conquest of Fredrikstad

The approaching bicentenary of Norway’s independence is naturally inspiring interest in the events of 1814, and in today’s edition of Fredriksstad Blad I tell the story of one of the lesser-known episodes of that annus mirabilis, namely the only visit the first King of the Swedish-Norwegian union, Carl XIII, ever made to Norway. This happened during the short war in August 1814, when King Carl was present at the conquest of Fredrikstad.
Carl XIII had been appointed Lord High Admiral before he could even walk and was thus in nominal command of the Swedish fleet during the war with Russia in 1788-1790. The battle of Hogland, which ended in a stalemate, was spun as a major victory and the then Duke of Sudermannia hailed as a naval victor. This reputation and his pursuit of further military glory meant that he insisted on taking part in the campaign of 1814, although he was weak and aged beyond his 66 years and could barely walk.
Nevertheless, Carl XIII had the pleasure of watching the conquest of Fredrikstad and spending a night in the town, from where he proudly wrote Queen Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta a letter “with a Norwegian pen and Norwegian ink”.
Following an armistice and negotiations the Norwegian Parliament voted in favour of union with Sweden three months later. However, King Carl’s weakening health meant that he was never able to carry out his intention of being crowned in Nidaros Cathedral, and indeed Fredrikstad was the only part of his new kingdom he would ever see.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A few details on Swedish royal wedding

The Swedish royal court has recently begun a rather odd practice whereby the court publishes their own interviews with the members of the royal family. Needless to say the result is not always the most interesting questions or answers. Today the court has published an interview (external link) with Princess Madeleine about her forthcoming wedding to Christopher “Chris” O’Neill on 8 June.
The Princess does not really say much, but discloses that it will be an afternoon wedding (in the Palace Church in Stockholm, as already announced), followed by a dinner at Drottningholm Palace, the home of the King and Queen to the west of the capital. Invitiations will be sent out before 1 April, the Princess will have no maid of honour but a group of children as bridal attendants (as is the Swedish royal tradition) and it has not yet been decided if there will be a live broadcast of the wedding.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope announces abdication

Abdication seems to be en vogue among the monarchs of Europe these days. Two weeks after Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced that she will renounce the crown on 30 April, Pope Benedict XVI today made known his intention to step down from the papal throne on 28 February.
While it is something of a tradition for Dutch monarchs to abdicate, it is nearly six centuries since last time a pope did so. In older history there are several popes who have been deposed, but few have stepped down voluntarily.
The news of Pope Benedict's abdication should nevertheless not come as a complete surprise, as he has earlier said that he considered it a pope's duty to step down if unable to carry out his role. For Pope Benedict XVI, who will be 86 in April, this moment has now come.
Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected pope in April 2005 in succession to John Paul II, who died a few weeks short of his 85th birthday after having suffered ill-health for years.
As on the death of a pope, a conclave of cardinals will be convened to elect the next pontiff, an election in which Benedict XVI will himself not be able to vote.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Another royal jubilee exhibition opens

For the past two days I have been in Tromsø, far to the north of Norway, where I attended the opening of yet another of the jubilee exhibitions based on the Royal Collections which are the government’s present to the King and Queen for their 75th birthdays last year. The exhibition was opened by the Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik, in the presence of the Queen.
There are altogether six different exhibitions shown in different parts of the country and the one at Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Tromsø shows the art collection which was presented to King Oscar II and Queen Sophie by public subscription on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary in 1882. The collection includes works by, among others, Fritz Thaulow, Hans Gude, Christian Krohg, Harriet Backer, Adelsteen Normann and Otto Sinding and is a rather splendid example of the high standards of Norwegian art of the late nineteenth century. With one exception, the paintings are all normally at the Royal Palace, most of them in rooms which are not accessible during the summer openings, meaning that this is a unique chance to see these artworks.
The majority of the artworks show Norwegian landscapes and coastal motifs, thus reflecting that King Oscar II travelled more widely in Norway than any monarch since Christian IV. Thus there is also a small exhibition dedicated to Oscar II’s travels in Northern Norway in an adjacent room.
The exhibition lasts until 1 September.
The last of the royal jubilee exhibitions will open in Trondheim on 4 June.